Man pleads guilty in Iron Range murder
An Indiana man admitted Wednesday to fatally strangling his girlfriend at his family’s cabin property near Cook last summer.
Daniel Gregory Lynn, 40, of South Bend, pleaded guilty to a charge of unintentional second-degree murder at a hearing in State District Court in Virginia.
The body of 28-year-old Christina Marie Woods was found wrapped and bound in a shallow grave on the 80-acre Beatty Township property on July 2, according to court records. Woods had been missing from the South Bend area for several weeks; phone records led investigators to the Iron Range.
Lynn’s wife reportedly acknowledged to police that she witnessed her husband strangle Woods. Investigators said clothing and personal items also were located in a burn pit on the property.
Under a plea agreement with the St. Louis County Attorney’s Office, Lynn will face a guideline 200-month prison sentence, according to prosecutor Rebekka Stumme. A charge of intentional second-degree murder will be dismissed.
Sixth Judicial District Judge Michelle Anderson scheduled sentencing for Feb. 25.
According to a criminal complaint:
The St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office was contacted by investigators at the St. Joseph County (Ind.) Police Department on June 26 regarding Woods, who they believed may be in the Eveleth area.
Woods was last seen dropping off her children in Indiana on June 9 and had been in phone contact with others as of June 12. A “stepfather figure” reported receiving a text message from her phone on June 13 asking for help and stating that she was in trouble and needed to be picked up. Another text came through two hours later stating she was fine and “not to tell her mom.”
Funds were deposited into Woods’ electronic benefit transfer account on June 23 but were never withdrawn. St. Joseph County also reported that Woods had been the victim of several prior reports of violence involving Lynn.
Phone records showed Woods’ last phone usage near Eveleth on June 12 and deputies learned Lynn’s family owned the cabin on Wakely Road northeast of Cook. Upon visiting the scene, no one was present but the grass was freshly mowed and cleaning materials were visible from the exterior.
Neighbors said two vehicles, one burgundy and one black, were present at the cabin some time between June 11-15. Lynn was seen driving a burgundy vehicle on multiple surveillance videos in the Virginia area on June 14.
Lynn admitted he was at the cabin in June, claiming he was there to open the cabin for the rest of the family. He said he was there with his wife and their child, but denied knowing anything about Woods’ disappearance.
Lynn’s aunt confirmed he had been hired to prepare the cabin. She said Lynn and his wife had left their child with his mother and then drove to the cabin in a black Volkswagen Jetta on June 13.
With the aunt’s permission, St. Louis County deputies and Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigators conducted a preliminary search of the property. They found a fire pit that appeared to have been recently used, recovering items including a necklace and metal buttons from women’s jeans.
A search warrant was obtained and investigators returned on June 23. Additional buttons and other clothing remnants were discovered.
In a larger-scale search on July 2, investigators found Woods’ body in what appeared to be a fresh gravesite. An autopsy performed the following day by the Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office concluded that Woods died of homicidal violence, with internal bruises found under her chest and back.
On July 3, law enforcement in Indiana received an anonymous tip indicating Lynn and his wife were packing to leave the area. Further, the tip alleged that Lynn admitted he killed someone but claimed the body would not be located.
Investigators subsequently interviewed Brooke Lynn, who admitted that her husband had strangled Woods and that she had witnessed the incident. She has not been charged in connection with Woods’ death.
A warrant was issued for Daniel Lynn’s arrest on July 3 and he was taken into custody 10 days later in southwestern Michigan.